Sunday, July 31, 2011

Politicians tend to target "undeserving" people during a crisis

I really hope Congress finally gets its act together tonight, and, in terms of tactics, makes this discussion less urgent. 

But, as I indicated on July 23, I am very concerned about the “tone” of the way this debate has gone.

There are two “pre-concepts” to recognize.

One of these concepts is “asymmetry”. In any controversial political or social situation, the party with the more novel  position tends to gain some mechanical leverage merely by being an outlier.  That was true of the way I managed my own web presence with respect to several sensitive political issues in the past fifteen years, especially “gays in the military” and how it morphed and evolved into and out of “don’t ask don’t tell”, and how that whole “attitude” shows up in some many other contexts.  By self-publishing a book and by keeping a visible and credible presence on the Web for a decade and a half, to be found passively, I had leverage in the debate out of proportion to my numbers (as a “team of one”, as the former Rev. Don Eastman of MCC Dallas used to say in the 1980s). I did not have to join other people’s causes and “win converts” with shallow, intellectually insufficient  or misleading arguments.  I did not have to “always be closing.”

The other concept is personal autonomy, the ability to follow one’s own chosen goals, even publicly. This determination goes along with an “unbalanced personality”, a concept well known in the Rosenfels polarity theory that I have discussed elsewhere (in Chapter 3 of my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book).  In history, most individuals don’t get to go through life without having their “calling” threatened by the needs or power plays of others.

I have felt “threatened” by “political crises” in the past, and they are always the reactive result of underlying problems in “sustainability “of something a major component of society has been doing.  In the 1970s, twice, we had major oil shocks (the most severe in 1973-1974). Mobility at the time was a big issue for me.  In a sense, we produced our way out of this, sort of.  In 1975, when I was living in “the land between the Villages”, New York City experienced its major financial crisis and brush with default. Remember the New York Daily News “Ford to City: Drop Dead” headline?  Finally, the teachers’ union blinked (and subway fares were raised).  In the 1980s, while living in Dallas, I was threatened directly (as the reader can understand) by the AIDS epidemic, and (somehow) “escaped” remaining HIV-negative, but the Texas legislature considered very draconian anti-gay laws which would have banned gays from many jobs.  Only energetic lobbying kept it at bay.

I think we can think of others, too. I probably wouldn’t be here today if the Soviet Union hadn’t blinked first during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis (when I was a “patient” at NIH).  And I was in Minneapolis, not New York, on 9/11.

So, if we were to default, can I believe “it won’t be so bad”?  I personally think it could get really serious. I’m not concerned about a brief delay in Social Security checks (many people are), or the effect of a delayed federal salary payment, but I am very concerned about the value of an estate, about 75% of which is in securities, most of them bond funds and relatively conservative stock funds.  There is a possibility that the whole economy could collapse into a “purification”.

Is that what the “asymmetric” wing or “Gang of 87” wants? A takeover?  Sometimes they sound like bullies, imposing their will “because they can”.  Sorry, we missed the idea that a faction of the GOP really could block the government’s ability to pay the bills from money Congress had already appropriated and run up (much of it from the Bush years and a lot from TARP and the “bailouts”).

Now, wait a minute. The “Tea Party” (as have some conservative columnists, as in The Washington Times), has warned that even with the debt ceiling lifted, the Nation may soon be unable to borrow money to roll over its debt principal regularly.  Ratings agencies and other finance experts say, no, thus can’t happen now, but it could if we don’t reverse our trends in our deficits.  That would be a real Armageddon that Congress can’t fix with weekend all-nighters.  Is the Tea Party doing us a favor, then?

The New York Times, in fact, has a column today by Louise Story, “Deal May Avert Default, but Some Ask, ‘Is that Good?’” here.  

I guess having “the knowledge of good and evil” is a dangerous thing.  But some radicals say that the U.S. should actually repudiate some of its obligations now, so that future generations get a fair shot without so much debt (let alone warding off a future disaster).   That would wipe a lot of us out, including me, probably.  That’s where the “bullying” comes in.   Some columns, such as a Washington Times editorial, present Medicare and Social Security obligations as “promises” that could be revoked rather than contractual obligations which, in large part (although not entirely) they are.

Radicals often make these kinds of “threats”, and the asymmetry (the crazy side, with nothing to lose if it blows us up, has the leverage) works to their advantage. Back in the early 1970s, when I was “coming of age” as a young adult, the extreme Left made these kinds of “proposals”.  I’ve seen this kind of thing before.

So this comes down to “personal morality”.  In a previous post, I explained my goals; and I need some stability, without constant external “threats”, to settle down and work on them. Some will say, I have no more right to expect this.  After all, I have putatively benefited from the unseen sacrifices of others in the past, so shouldn’t I take my turn on the front lines? 

In fact, such was the tenor of our moral debate back in the 1960s, when we had a male-only draft, Vietnam, with student deferments, so that physically fit but intellectually inept young men wound up as cannon fodder so that others could lead more privileged lives.  It isn’t such a stretch from this sort of thinking to the “cultural revolutions” of Chairman Mao or, later, Pol Pot.

I have come to accept one idea: Asymmetry does confer a certain “power”, and as Peter Parker (“Spiderman”) once said, with power, however you get it, comes responsibility, to be prepared to take care of other people, and sometimes bond to them. To refuse to do so, previously viewed as harmlessness or neutrality, suddenly becomes a kind of existential aggression, because it implies that eventually some vulnerable people must be dumped off the boat.

That’s a hard order to me to meet at this point in my life, after some number of years where people tried to dump some kinds of unwelcome personal challenges into my lap, and then whine when I said “No”.  But I admit, I have been coddled and protected before. I can understand how others think the tables have turned.

But, for me to succeed, I need to live in a world where contracts are honored and debts are paid in an orderly way, and where there is a reasonable amount of time to address sustainability issues.  I need to live in a “web of trust”.  I do fear we could face a sudden breakdown, where life is driven back into filial tribalism, and where one lives for the ability to navigate a world where social manipulation and loyalty is all that matters.   (I suspect that such a world does feed the temperament of much of the old fashioned heterosexual world of soap operas, winding up in “marriage”; if you’re going to wind up responsible for kids anyway, you might as well get what is due to you.) I am not fit to live in or offer any leadership to such a world (and it is not really “your world of ideas” that I would have to “live in”).  I am 68 now, and after such a development, I would not expect to have much time. 

Indeed, the nature of political conflict encourages blame propagation and targeting “undeserving” people.  It’s always possible to invent a reason to go after almost anyone (totalitarian governments do this all the time).  The GOP, if it refused to agree to let the government pay its bills, could enjoy watching the Democrats have to make the “Sophie’s Choice”, leading the Democrats to insist on randomness, making total breakdown even more likely.  Let there be no misunderstanding: when it gets down to an individual person, "sacrifice" means exactly that. It is a loss that is not made up, and can throw the person into dependency on others in the immediate community because of what some more distant did for his own "selfish" (here, ideological) purposes. 

I do get the point about generativity.  I am older, I did not have children; I should perhaps retreat or disappear so that future generations have their chance.  But I have experienced “being it” before, all the politicians (with a lot of asymmetric power) seem to think this is all right now deeply offensive, and threatening. I understand that I was a physical "coward" as a youngster and let others take the risks. So, if I were ever personally taken "hostage" today, it would probably end my life.  I would not give in to anything.

There are many ways that life can end badly because of someone else’s misdeeds: random violence, DWI, terrorism.  Or it can be brought to an end because of natural catastrophes that we did not address in advance because of our political ideological battles.  These can include pandemics, asteroids, unusually strong “coronal mass ejections”, supervolcanos, an East Coast tsunami from Cumbre Vieja, as well as hypercanes that may become prevalent as the world warms – and, again, we have time to prepare for that.  I understand the Christian concept of Grace and Forgiveness. But in a certain sense, I also insist that we remember that consequences to people for things can be final and terminal, and that responsibility for things that end badly need to be born. There is no “Another Earth” to bail us (or me) out.




Friday, July 29, 2011

In my 1997 book, I had advocated constitutional amendments, including a balanced budget (be careful what you wish for)

The last chapter of my 1997 “Do Ask Do Tell” book did propose a (long) constitutional amendment to anchor certain individual rights, and in the course of proposing it, I discussed the way constitutional conventions work and discussed earlier attempts to pass an equal rights amendment as well as older proposals for a Balanced Budget Amendment that go back to the late 1970s.  

This is important now, since today the GOP is still trying to make a mandatory passage of a BB amendment by Congress a requirement for a second (and therefore present as well) extension of the debt ceiling.  Another wrinkle no one has explored yet is the constitutional convention process itself.

People told me, sometime after the appearance of my book, that throwing around proposals to amend the Constitution could be dangerous.  “Be careful what you wish for,” they said to me.  Maybe they were right.

Another problem has come up with criticisms of my “screed-book”. “Why won’t you run for office yourself,” people ask, “or help our candidates”.  Now that seems relevant, because we seem to have a large number of members of Congress who are very intransigent and willing to throw themselves around to be noticed.  Some of them also seem intellectually deficient, unable to grasp the dimensions of a potential default.

In fact, John Boehner showed a clip of Ben Affleck’s film, “The Town”, where Affleck’s character says, “I’m going to go out and hurt some people” and does so. (Does that mean, hurt other MC's, or throw ordinary people off the boat?)  That’s ironic, because Affleck has talked about running for Congress (as a Democrat). No question, someone like Affleck, or his buddy Matt Damon, or Ashton Kutcher (“real men don’t buy girls….”), someone like George Stephanopoulos, or anyone with a comparable intellect (say a Silicon Valley executive from any number of companies I can name) would grasp what is going on and wouldn’t behave this way.

It really does matter whom we put in office.  You get the government you deserve. And we could think about serving in Congress as a kind of public service, something only for four or six years, not a career.

In 2000, I actually entertained the idea of running on the Libertarian party ticket for the Senate from Minnesota. But if I were there now, I wouldn’t vote for a measure that stops the US government from paying its current bills (or vote against a measure allowing the government to meet its current obligations).

What I dislike, of course, is the idea of giving up my own public “intellectual independence” to join somebody else’s cause.  I dislike these emotionally manipulative ads from lobbying groups that present only one side of a question and presume ignorance.  Yet, some of this is inevitable in a society that has any social organization at all.  And our loss of socialization can threaten our sustainability.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Facebook director calls for end of Internet anonymity

Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook’s director of marketing and founder Mark Zuckerberg’s older sister, called for an end to Internet anonymity in a recent roundtable on cyber bullying. "It has to go away," she said. 

The link for the story in the UK Daily Mail about the Randi's remarks  is (url) here. 

Facebook requires members to use "real names". An  EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) story, (by Jillian York) discusses Facebook's policy (and Google's below); there is a  good question as to whether "real name" means "legal name" and would exclude a common nickname.  

Earlier stories in the media have presented a theory by Mark Zuckerberg that anonymity shows a “lack of integrity”  -- which is becoming very much a generational concept.

On the other hand, civil liberties groups (the ACLU) and Internet free speech advocates (like Electronic Frontier Foundation, mentioned above) and even privacy groups (EPIC) have long defended anonymity, which would seem essential for dissent movements overseas, as with the “Arab Spring”.

Pseudonyms have long been used by actors, performers, musicians and authors, as was the case back in the 19th Century when female authors used men's names.  In recent years, content creators have often invented nicknames for themselves and even trademarked them (sometimes to distinguish themselves from others); this could become a problem for any service that insists on a legal names policy (which appears to be the case with Facebook).  Sometimes people have used pseudonyms to distance themselves (or "protect") their families or business connections.

Google-Plus appears to have a more flexible identity policy that encourages the use of a nickname if that is how someone is generally known; here is the link. This policy appears to be in a state of flux.  Blogger does not appear to have such a policy from what I can see. (Google accounts and Blogger accounts have their own profiles and right now are maintained in two separate places; it wouldn't surprise me to see this change in the future.)

It seems to me that a service provider could allow pseudonyms and not allow anonymity or false or misleading names. 

I use my legal name “John W. Boushka” on Facebook, but used my nickname “Bill Boushka” (“Bill”=”William”) for my books and blogs. This was potentially an issue a few years ago in a supposed “self-defamation” situation when I called a character “Bill” in a screenplay scenario and a school system presumed that was me (July 27, 2007).

You can see a complete explanation of my "identity" for searching on my Blogger Profile.

Ending anonymity might make managing "online reputation" cleaner. If people could not post disparaging comments or videos (or tag images) about others anonymity, employers might not find as much false and defamatory information about job candidates on the web. 

It might also make blogging policies and "conflict of interest" situations testier for employers. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

CNN on tracking; did I get "super-tracked" by "TP"?

Here is a CNN video by Chad Myers on tracking. Browsers now offer the ability to opt out of tracking, with varying levels of effectiveness (discussed in earlier posts). The FCC scramble last spring is discussed.
Here’s something interesting as a personal anecdote. I have been blogging about the debt ceiling crisis, presenting all sides and taking fairly moderate positions (we must pay our bills on time!). Today I get a phone call about a rally at the Capitol Lawn from the Tea Party (aka Toilet Paper) for a “Hold the Line” rally on my home phone (and then I get a second one that hangs up).  I don’t publish my home phone, only my cell. It disturbs me that someone tracked this down. I don’t know how.  I sounds like a kind of “super-tracking.” 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Debt crisis and "personal" morality

Here’s a good one about “morality” and the debt crisis: “The Debt Ceiling and the Pursuit of Happiness”, by Arthur C. Brooks, p A13 of the Wall Street Journal Monday, link here

I like his reference to “meritocratic fairness” and other platitudes about entrepreneurs, earned success, and generational fairness.  But I also remember some comments on talk radio back in the 1990s (on shows by Rush Limbaugh and Oliver North, to be sure), from a minor  African-American Republican candidate Alan Keyes, who insisted that economic stability depends on the morality of its individual citizens.

The “ideology” of the Tea Party (aka “Toilet Paper”) may take some unstringing, but one observation stands out: when individuals take care of themselves but also of dependent persons in their own families, communities, and to a lesser extent “globally”, society does not need to depend as much on a politically-controlled government safety net – and so it is less vulnerable to economic shocks from external causes or internal, polarized (or partisan) political battles .  I don’t think that means there is no central government at all, but that’s another discussion (that could sometimes trip up libertarians).

There can follow a rethinking of notions of “personal responsibility” v. the capacity to take care of others that should be expected of all independent persons in a democratic society. “Family responsibility” goes way beyond just the “choice” to “risk” having children. And all of this bears on the moral debates we have engaged recently on gay issues: the military DADT, marriage, and even parenting.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Judge reduces penalty to Minnesotan in notorious RIAA download case

There is a backtrack story on the RIAA lawsuits. A federal judge has greatly reduced the judgment against Jammie Thomas-Rasset in Minnesota.  She had insisted she did not do the downloads.  RIAA insists that judges do not have the right to change jury awards.

RIAA has since stopped the mass litigation against alleged illegal downloaders, which was often “served” with simple phone calls (like from a debt collector) demanding settlement.

RIAA has changed strategy to pressuring ISP’s to warn users, and the latest development is the Copyright Alert System, discussed here July 8.

A recent concern is that home or small business users could be held responsible for misuse of their routers by “wardrivers”, and it’s not clear yet what constitutes adequate security.  ISP’s should train home users on their responsibilities when selling cable service with home routers.

The link for the story (by Chris Marlowe) on Digital Media Wire is here

Friday, July 22, 2011

Immigration definitely bears on the "family values" debate (Post story)

Thursday, the Washington Post ran an interesting front-page story about “family values”, “’Nuclear Family’ the Way of N. Va.;  Influx of Hispanics, Asians helps area buck the national trend”, link here.

There is a curious quote in the middle of the story: “Emma Violand-Sanchez, a member of the Arlington County School Board, notices a distinct difference between the individualism of American culture and the more communal family values in Hispanic culture.”


“We grow up with a concept of we, versus I”, she said. “If you have toys, those toys belong to the entire family, not to one child.”


“The majority of us are Catholic, and the Church also reinforces the family. Versus living with a partner without getting married, or living independently, away from your family. Family is valued. We grow up with a sense of responsibility to be together.”

That last sentence caught my eye. In their culture, it is more important to share the values of the family group and support them than to define your own goals and pursue them.  It’s not a good thing to stand alone. It’s dangerous to “you” and to the family.  It's not your prerogative to judge other people in your immediate community and decide whether to "feel" about them on the basis of their "merit". 

Having children within marriage confers the power (and responsibility) to set priorities for those who did not have children. That guarantees a lineage, as part of a communal “survival strategy” but also makes marital intimacy last. But in an individualistic society, this kind of thinking makes the childless into second-class citizens. But it’s what the “natural family” crowd wants.  It's more about what's "right" for the group than what's "true" for the individual. Social hierarchies and the loyalties they demand tend to trump over individual ideas of justice.  

All of this weighs on the debate about sustainability and the ability of a community to survive serious outside existential challenges.  And there's no question that there is a demographic twist to the debate on low birth rates and the ability to replace the aging population. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fertik's Reputation Defender will develop software tools to allow individuals to charge advertisers for accessing personal information

Michael Fertik and his company “Reputation.com” (that is, Reputation Defender) are developing software products that would allow home users or individuals to charge advertisers to access their personal information.  The project is supported by venture capitalists including Bessemer Ventures and JAFCO, and would involve at least a $40 million investment.

Logically, it would sound as though such a product could also help websites identify minors visiting their site, an issue in the litigation over COPA, the Child Online Protection Act, declared unconstitutional after considerable litigation several years ago.

The news story, by Lindsey Compton, tweeted today, appears on Digital Media Wire today, link here

It remains to be seen how such a product would interact with browser anti-tracking settings (as in Firefox and IE9), or “do not track” proposals being discussed in Congress.  It’s also unclear how this would affect the business model of companies that offer blogging and social networking services (ranging from Blogger and Wordpress to Facebook), supported by advertisers. 

Update: July 21.

There is a coordinated post about a startup company called "Social Intelligence" on my IT Job Market blog (check my Profile).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Researchers think Facebook profiles (and other online activity) could serve to create de facto "personality tests"

Eric Niiler has a provocative article on the “Health & Science” page of the Tuesday July 19 Washington Post, p E1, “What sort of person are you? Facebook profiles offer clues,” link here

It’s pretty scary that employers could turn to automated Facebook (and perhaps Twitter and Blogger/Wordpress or Google search) profiles in lieu of “personality tests”.  People get excluded from jobs based on these tests without a human being looking at them.

A study examined the usefulness of Facebook in predicting extroversion, openness to experience, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Extroverts tended to have more Facebook friends who themselves had not befriended one another.

Did anybody see where this “online reputation” issue would go a few years ago?  Not really. But it may be pretty hard to see a person’s own biases from his or her public online activities, and this can be an issue in the workplace for those with the power to make decisions about others. 

The military, even as "don't ask don't tell" hopefully ends, is studying how social media could help predict "unit cohesion".  This is an ironic role for Facebook to play. 

Notice that Mark Zuckerberg's own Facebook profile is titled "Public Figure".  That generates "right of publicity" (and reduces "right of privacy").  His reclining sweater-blazer black-and-white portrait photo is rather interesting in its ambiguity.  Go ahead and check out his "feature length" YouTube video on Web 2.0; I may have embedded it before, link

Monday, July 18, 2011

New Senate bill targets illegal streaming of "public performances"

Electronic Frontier Foundation is warning netizens about a new bill, S. 978, introduced by Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, “A bill to amend the criminal penalty provision for criminal infringement of a copyright, and for other purposes”, govtrack link here

The bill focuses on the “unlawful public performance” area of copyright law, and could invite the targeting of certain kinds of sites that major corporate interests see as threatening.  (Would it be illegal to post videos of, say, the music in the Capitol Fourth concert?)  Possibly, YouTube streams of major performances could come under attack, maybe even embeds. Will YouTube add this bill to its "copyright school"?

Techdirt has an interesting article, “Homeland Security admits that it is the private police force of the entertainment industry,” here.

It strikes me as an ironic observation, given the current furor in Congress about deficit spending and the possibility of a national default if the debt ceiling isn’t extended, that some of our $300+ billion “obligations” for August (on top of investor interest and Social Security) is used for something like this.  Was some of my own FICA tax money diverted from the Trust Fund for this “private copyright police force?”  Ask the Tea Party. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Tea Party's "Purification" -- and how it could affect me (if no debt-ceiling extension)

I want to take a few moments to reiterate my own plans and draw some lines in the sand as to how I would respond to future challenges.

It is my intention to develop my “Do Ask Do Tell” materials into a film, and to remain engaged in the debate on a number of issues regarding “social equality” and the whole panoply of issues that follow “free entry” on the Internet.  (A likely challenge to Section 230, as well as Protect-IP/COICA, are but two examples.)  This requires maintain an active presence on the web, which I am restructuring.

It is very important to me to remain focused on this in order to do the best possible job with the materials.  And it is important to keep external issues from derailing me.

I have covered, intermittently, the eldercare situation that I had for a number of years, and the passing of my mother in December 2010. There is an estate, and I should benefit from it, and have some considerable leeway, at age 68, to do “what I want” for a while, without being paid all the time, in order to contribute what is uniquely mine to give. And that is the creation of content.

In the midst of all the uncertainties of the past, I did take a part time job last year with Census. While I cannot discuss the details, I can say that there is an issue of the amount of time that the intermittent job takes (particularly how it affects my “calendar”), and a question of whether I should go full time, or whether I would have time for it at all given my other plans.

In the past ten years or so, I have repeatedly been “challenged” by others to consider work that requires much more social bearing and assertiveness, than being a programmer-analyst in IT had.  These “opportunities” have involved some well-known career options like teaching or agenting life insurance, and a number of others, some of which could have sounded questionable and even scammy.  These sorts of opportunities would be compromised by my writings or the attention they could attract.  In fact, there has been a trend in the past few years for people to be expected to manipulate their online presence for the sake of their employment and not their own views, which was not the case when all this started in the 1990s.

Since I instantiated myself as a “public figure” by entering the debate on the military gay ban (“don’t ask, don’t tell”) and then other issues in the late 1990s, and perhaps drawn attention to myself, I’ve become struck by something. That is, if you are out in “public life” (to quote “Hannibal” from a notorious film) people tend to expect you to have your skin in the game, to be responsible for other people, to be able to provide for and protect them personally.  I senses this “intellectually” in the 90s as I worked on the book, but I experienced it with the long eldercare episode ending last year, when I “landed as I landed”.   This is true even if you did not have your own children, but it is even more daunting, because you don’t have your own personal “domain” the way others do.  And that is very difficult for me to take, since gender-related interpersonal relations when I was younger became a source of humiliation.  I became able to go off on my own, somewhat almost in an “Ayn Rand” fashion, and now I find this resisted.

So for me, the “threat” of external disruptions, when otherwise I would be able to pursue my intentions, is a very real issue. At the moment, the most serious issue is the possible ramifications of the failure of Congress to extend the debt ceiling, which I have discussed in detail on my Issues and my Retirement Blogs.  How could this affect me?  There are a few ways. First, remember that there is a small risk that the debt crisis could be very prolonged, and that the nation could descend into disorder and chaos.

What are the specific risks?  (I know, “holler before you’re hurt”.)  One is that social security payments could be reduced or stop entirely.  I won’t have an immediate problem paying bills if they are delayed, but my plans do count on receiving income that was promised. The same is true of my ING pension from my major employer (which appears to be stable).  From a legal point of view, I think I might not be entitled to receive income that isn’t justified by my past FICA tax contributions, but I believe that about 85% of my benefit is indeed justified.  The biggest fear is that if the payments were delayed, they might never be resumed.

Another is to the estate, which has some stocks but a lot of bond funds. These could quickly become worthless if the federal government is not able to pay its own bond debt, which affects municipal bond funds. Perhaps I will learn that bond holders will be paid first.  But otherwise I could have to pull everything out of the market in the next two weeks and put it in cash. I’m not above doing that if I have to.  (What if everyone else does this?  A run on the markets.  It makes 2008 look like child’s play)  But then, will the FDIC be sound?  No wonder some people talk about buying gold.  Our currency system could collapse completely.

These "threats" may be remote, but I do think that some Congresspersons in the Tea Party are playing with fire. I think that they believe they have the political mass to bully others into submission, which they could do.  (I suppose Barney Frank would say, “if I can’t get my way, punish the country.”) History shows that this kind of thing has happened before, that certain populations get targeted to make the “sacrifices” for others.

It’s also true that the spending cuts in the future could have a much greater effect on me.  I have not used Medicare very much yet. But, after a period of stopping most Medicare payments to providers, Congress could means test all Medicare service immediately, and require a “spend down” similar to Medicaid (putting seniors and their families into a death-or-poverty choice, perhaps refusing treatments). It might even contemplate going after adult children with new filial responsibility laws, perhaps even retroactively (although that could run into constitutional questions – ex post facto).   All of this could happen in the effort to restore the ability of the federal government to function with no debt ceiling extension, and a refusal of Congress to ever do so in the future.

But there are numerous other calamities that could lead to “purification”, such as another major terrorist attack, maybe with nuclear weapons or EMP blast, or natural cataclysms like huge geomagnetic storm (EMP and power grid, again), pandemics, or even something like an Atlantic tsunami from the Cumbre Vieja in the Canary Islands.   A world that remains is not good for someone like me, who does not like to be forced into personal relationships to be effective. 

It’s useful to remember that the heart of conservative “moral thinking” is that families (and local communities) take care of their own and do not depend on the outside world (government) to provide for weakest members.   Family responsibility (connected to gender in older moral systems) belongs to everyone, not just those who have children. In fact, having children within marriage confers the power to mold the relationships of others in the family and provide backup responsibilities. (Although it didn't happen explicitly in my case, inheritance often comes with a "dead hand" of attached strings, to use money to promote the interests of a family lineage and not just one's own goals.)  It seems, in retrospect, that during my own coming of age in the 50s and 60s, young men rather understood this and felt that heterosexual encounters were an earned privilege – they would have the responsibility anyway regardless . I really recall this sort of thinking from dormitory and Army environments.  The idea of localizing responsibility to the consequences of choices (like sexual intercourse) seems like a more modern idea (at least since the 1970s). In any case, one consequence of the “Tea Party’s” thinking is that someone like me ought to be required to be responsible for a family anyway. The idea of "mandatory socialization" may in the future go farther toward reducing the need for government than at times in the past; the Tea Party social conservatives (Bachmann) may have a point here.   

Where do these grim possibilities lead me?  I can only say I am determined to follow the “let’s do it” mentality of my own plans. I hope to be judged by my own work, not by external circumstances that force socialization on me.  After I have gotten to where my new career really “pays”, I could take on a “family” with some sense of “pride”.   (With a successful film, I could support a family on my own, without dependence on inheritance or other income.) But I simply cannot allow anyone to plunk other people’s problems (especially “OPC” – “other people’s children”) into my lap as if I were supposed to make them “all right” (something that happened especially during the substitute teaching a few years ago). 

I am 68, maybe in the last act of my own life, and yes, a major catastrophe could take me out.  What is going on is serious.  One simple fact of logic, or perhaps physics:  when one person takes from another or doesn't pay what is rightfully owed, both parties are permanently harmed.  Litigation doesn't erase wrong.  And sometimes harm is irreversible enough to take someone out for good. I was never so impressed with that until the past few years, at least after 9/11. 

It seems strange that it is the unpredictability of “The Event”  (aka “The Purification”) beyond one’s control that provides so much of the moral justification for survivalism and forced socialization, and that tends to make the hidden dependencies on others of many people into moral issues.
Also:

The Wall Street Journal, Saturday July 16, has an article on p B1 "The Debt Crisis: If treasury bonds aren't safe, what is?"  Answer, in part, look at overseas investments (not cash in US $). It also has an editorial, p A12, "What about the Trust Fund?" explaining why it may be difficult to extract money from it in a default environment, and on p A4, in a sidebar box, it explains that the McConnell/Reid plan has the best (maybe good) chance of avoiding default.  





Thursday, July 14, 2011

Righthaven cites for misleading federal court; it tries to rewrite its SAA's; courts are accepting some article copying as "fair use"

Righthaven has been fined $5000 for misleading a federal court, in its Nevada suit against the Democratic Underground. The judge cited it for falsely claiming that it owned the copyright in question when in fact Stephens Media had only assigned it the right to sue.  So it did not actually have the “property right” sometimes discussed here in earlier postings.

Kent Bingham has an account in the “One Utah” blog here.

There is some question, raised on the Righthaven Victims blog, as to whether Righthaven or its officers could face sanctions before the Nevada bar.  Maybe “Buble” will write a song “Righthaven is dead”, for Sirius XM’s “The Blend”.

Scribd has a copy of the agreement between Righthaven and Media News, including the Denver Post, here and various other smaller papers, mostly in the west (but the St. Paul Pioneer Press is included, to my surprise; I lived in Minneapolis 1997-2003 and it was the “smaller” newspaper in the Twin Cities).

Righthaven victims is also reporting that Righthaven has been trying to rewrite its SAA’s (“Strategic Alliance Agreement”) and in at least one case, refile a case immediately (July 13 post here ).

There is a master index of most of the coverage of the Righthaven story at “Righthaven Lawsuits”, link here

For example, here is a posting (June 21) on the “Dag T Blog” about how an entire editorial can be reposted within the parameters of “fair use” if it is part of a non-commercial “discussion thread”, here

First picture: "Life is a box of chocolates".

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

"Child free" is often "circumstantial" and not always "by choice"

There is an interesting autobiographical story today by Melanie Nortkin examining the increased rate of childlessness in American women, appearing on AOL and the Huffington Post, link here

She describes what she calls “circumstantial infertility”. This seems like a combination of the increased ability of women to provide for themselves, increased tension in the workplace over parental benefits, and a tendency for many (usually heterosexual) dating partners to become increasingly fussy about openness to children. 

She also describes herself as maternal and eager to experience a kind of substitute motherhood for others.  That is something some people (artificial fatherhood) have tried to suggest or prod from me, and I find myself resenting the idea.  If I am going to be responsible for someone, I want to have “ownership” of the family in the usual sense.  For example, overseas child charities encourage donors to correspond with “matched” children benefitting from contributions. I have never been comfortable with that.

But it’s an interesting article. I wonder how Philip Longman would respond. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

MLB: The "team" game lasts a full nine innings; when you climb a mountain, you don't quit until you make it back down; "life's lessons"

The other night, the Washington Nationals, with the chance for a four game sweep against the Chicago Cubs at home, blew an eight run lead after five innings, to lose, 10-9.  At one point, statistics gave them a 99.1% chance of a win. Pitcher Livan Hernandez tossed as if the game ended after five innings (like a convenient severe storm) and let go of a couple of hanging changeups that got smacked as balloons.  Six runs come back. 

You’ve got to play all nine innings, and you have to play half your games on the road, in someone else’s park, according to their agenda, their ground rules, and their chance for a walk-off win. (Oh, forget that recent exception with Seattle and Tampa Bay.)

You don’t always get to stop playing “in life” when you want to, and you don’t get to kibbitz when you want to.  On the other hand, you don’t always get your ups either. In sixth grade one time, the boy in front of me hit into a triple play. I never got to bat. The lunch bell rang before the next inning.
MLB and sandlot baseball (an d maybe kickball) can teach “life’s lessons”.  But I’m reminded of the times when all the elements are against success.  Yet, as President Obama and a concert pianist friend of mine have both recently said, “let’s do it”, anyway. 

We have a real issue today with balancing how much we welcome “the individual” to perform and perhaps self-publish his own work, without the approval of others – with the need to expect the individual to share the goals of and sometimes the risks and common consequences born by the group. Baseball has plenty of that (suicide squeeze sacrifice bunts, dangerous base stealing, Davey Johnson’s management style, etc.)   The Internet has brought this dichotomy back to the fore. There are a lot of people who don’t like to see people draw attention to themselves, with their own work or views, until they can play on the side “of the team” first  -- in other words, demonstrate that they can serve some bigger “purpose” than that which comes from their own egos.  (“Natural family”, anyone?)  Remember how Donald Trump’s “Apprentice” played out and what humiliation Troy McClain absorbed “for the team”?   But this tension is getting serious these days in all kinds of areas --- online reputation, employment, even insurance.  

Individual pursuits sometimes have a self-defined life, too. When you climb a mountain, Everest or not, your goal is to make it back down, not just to make it to the top. 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

On my 68th Birthday, I peel the onion layers of my "classified" screenplay for "Do Ask Do Tell"

My “current of set” screenplay for my 1997 “Do Ask Do Tell” book is under wraps, cryptosecret as to spoilers, and not posted online while being worked (and there is that industry “Third Party Rule” anyway), but on my 68th birthday (official as of 6 AM EDT this morning), I thought I would discuss its layered structure.  It is a sci-fi sort-of-thing, with elements of “Fountain”, “Inception”, maybe even “Judas Kiss” (and a pinch of “Social Network”).

The innermost layer, which would start the film, is based on a screenplay short called “The Sub” where a male substitute teacher, after having a cardiac arrest on the job and being saved by a precocious student who knows how to use a defibrillator, befriends the student and, as so often the case, gets more than he bargains for. His behavior is legally and ethically ambiguous, but not necessarily that “wrong”. The innermost layer is filmed in black and white, 2D.

The middle layer is the life story based on me, all right, from the William and Mary Expulsion to the involvement with “don’t ask don’t tell” and then Internet “free entry” (and online reputation) issues. The “Bill” protagonist gets in trouble “a second time” while working as a real substitute teacher when the administration finds his experimental work online.  The middle layer (by “interviews” in the outer layer, below) dramatizes what “must have happened” behind the scenes, with a chilling revelation. But this leads to startling understandings of earlier events: his potential to become a composer and performer was aborted for somewhat the same reason his “first coming out” (as “gay”) was aborted: others demanded that he show them emotional loyalty to recognize his dependence on them because of his own level of mild “disability.” Family responsibility becomes a prerequisite for going global, whatever one’s intimate “choices.”


The outermost layer has “Bill” in a strange new world, with grayish sepia colors and 3-D, one that seems constrained as to area but that can shift back and forth in time, as if time had become an available dimension, represented in a series of parallel circular plates (in a calculus problem).  He gets escorted by a young man who may be an angel, and then even experiences a period of solitary confinement, as if to warn him that this is what happens to many people at the end of “life experience”.  After he “earns” the ability to “leave the company area on pass” (or maybe “post privileges”), he is confronted by a number of interpersonal situations he had refused, including a woman with many children who might want to learn music from him and who could become an audience for his composed music.  In time, he encounters people who were critical to his experience with music, generally at the ages they were when he interacted with them on Earth, regardless of the “time slice” (in his “integral calculus problem”).  Eventually, he learns he may earn the right to go back to Earth as a new kind of being, but not quite an Angel. No one has done this before. But Earth has experience an unusual calamity, the nature of which had been almost inadvertently proposed in the fictitious, self-published “black and white” screenplay that had gotten him in trouble.
There will be an Apocalypse.  That’s the spoiler. 

But, seriously, I am pretty sure that the thread of conscious experience does not stop with the end of “life as we know it”. I’m guessing as to “what happens”.  I do remember a night back in 1983, driving back home to Dallas, when a fundamentalist pastor talked about being accompanied by angels after one’s passing, and quickly learning of one’s “options”. 

I want a Christmas Day release for this movie! But I’m afraid I’d take any day. Heavens, it could even be a January movie (the movies that didn’t make it into Oscar candidacy  -- but this one should make it; it’s weird enough).

Friday, July 08, 2011

Industry announces Copyright Alert System, which would emphasizing notifying network owners and home users if their network connections are misused by anyone

The Center for Copyright Information has an announcement July 7 the development of an industry standardized system (the Copyright Alert System) to notify broadband and Internet service subscribers that their accounts may have been used for copyright infringement or online theft.

Subscribers could get up to six warnings in electronic form.  The emphasis in the system seems to reside more with actual broadband or wireless service than in content republication, as with blogging or social networking.

For example, people would be notified and warned once if their wireless routers had been misused, possibly by wardriving. This could affect the ability of Internet cafes to operate, or even for hotels to offer wireless service, and seems to need to be thought through more carefully.  Perhaps Internet cafes and even hotels would have to offer RSA tokens for sign on (well known in the cellular wireless world) so that the identity of actual parties doing illegal downloads (as through BitTorrent) could still be readily tracked.  On the other hand, ISP’s (like Comcast) that have been switching home users to wireless networks for multiple connections should provide more training to users in wireless security.  (There is also a legal “plausible deniability” downstream question that needs more examination in these cases; is merely having a password to the router enough?)

It would sound logical, though, to include Blogging and social networking platforms in a plan to notify users if other content owners believe their content infringes on copyright.  Some issues, like paraphrase or embeds, seem to need to be looked at. 

Parents would presumably be warned if their kids were guilty of infringement on a “family account”.  It’s odd that the announcement mentions “caregivers”.

The Alert System does not directly require participating ISPs or service providers to terminate accounts. But not doing so might damage their downstream liability defenses under DMCA Safe Harbor.

The link for the announcement is here.

There is earlier discussion of this issue on the Internet Safety blog. The risk occurs in other areas besides possible downstream liability for copyright infringement, such as the transmission of patently illegal content.

The problem could become more acute as wireless routers become more critical parts of home security infrastructure.  

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Washington DC pastor talks about "intentional praise" and faith, leading to a central paradox

On Sunday, July 3, a guest pastor at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, Dr. Sonya Neal Reeves, gave a sermon called “Intentional Praise”.

She noted the idea that “intentional praise” (or “intentional faith”) voluntarily enters an experience that “is not about you”, in the sense that Rick Warren (the pastor at President Obama’s Inauguration) often refers to.  It is not about what you have “earned” (as an Army buddy would have said, what “I could put in ‘The Proles’”), or how good you are as an individual. It is not about what you “deserve” in the usual sense of thinking about things tied to “The Economy.”  It is about a shared experience, whether through family, community, or faith. It is about shared vision.

There is a paradox in using the adjective “intentional”.  Not everything that matters is just about making a “choice” and following up on that, as important as that is (especially when it comes to matters like having children).  This seems like a moral paradox that lives at the very heart of living in freedom in a democracy.  It is a paradox that accompanies progressive initiatives for political and social equality.

The “intentional” part of this means, we still look for the “Real Rules” about what is expected of us, when we get beyond the “simpler” things that we can control, as important as these are.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Does Facebook have some new "real competition"? Not until everyone can play!

I’ve often written that there is both synergy and divergence between self-publishing and social networking with Web 2.0 (or 3.0), and the latest development seems to come from “Google+” which appears to be in limited Beta testing.  The critical link appears to be here

The corporate blog entry, dated June 28, is here.  But some of the core concepts seem to be “selective sharing” and “sparks”. 

In general, I don’t know if is so different from Facebook, but it might seem a bit more focused on “selectivity”. It's certainly true that our relationships with others in the "real world" are based on a layered selectivity.  Telepathy doesn't require marriage. 

Another area that is getting attention is “mobility”.  There is an effort to make Blogger more Mobile friendly, with Mobile Templates, announced June 8, here  on Blogger Buzz (this is not the same as blogging from a mobile device).    I tried it on two blogs. On the TV Reviews blog, the ads stopped working for a while, and then that fixed itself in a couple days (technical bug?).   But I then tried it on my Trademark law blog, with no ill effects, but I can’t see the mobile format on my Blackberry. I’m told that this is a failing of Blackberry, that should get fixed soon; or else, get a better phone (Android). I’m on a Blackberry contract, however.   I’ve noticed that some “establishment” sites work fine on the Blackberry (although a bit slow), but others don’t.  With MLB, the scoreboard displays work (and so do the cell phone videos), but I have trouble with the links.  I’ll get back to this later on the NN blog. 

In general, the entire “service platform” world (whether emphasizing networking, like Facebook, or publishing, like Blogger/Google and probably Wordpress) is starting to push the idea that publishing tends to go to specific communities in a layered way.  General purpose publishing seems to be going the way of general purpose computing.

Lance Ulanoff of PC Magazine argues that Google+ should be open to everyone, in an article here. He offers a link to follow the discussion thread, which only requires signing on to a Google account if you are not a plus member.  I have a feeling that “open to everyone” will follow soon. But it took Facebook about three years, remember, to do just that.

Welcome to “The Social Network II”.  (Or is it “III” or “IV”?  Remember Myspace?   -- so often a program subject on Dr. Phil with those “Internet mistakes”. Or Friendster?)  Facebook may not remain "King of the World" forever.  (Neither will Vantage in the life insurance systems area.)  Be careful what you say when you board the Titanic.

Update: July 6

OK, here's is Skype's account of Facebook's "awesome announcement" today


King of the World for at least one more day, maybe,

Sunday, July 03, 2011

ACLU suit against DC police in "photography" case unearths many issues over photography in public places (of police and others) in many states


NBC Washington (formerly NBC4) reports that a man , with the help of the ACLU-NCA (American Civil Liberties Union of the National Capital Area), suing Washington DC police for detaining him for a while for taking pictures of police activity from a distance without interfering with it.  He also recorded audio. 
The ACLU has a short write-up of the incident here

The explosion of mobile photography technology makes it more likely that average citizens could photograph police activity without being easily noticed.

View more videos at: http://nbcwashington.com.>
In a related controversy, a few business property developers have tried to prohibit all photography on their property, which may be their right (however foolishly conceived), but they have actually tried to prohibit photography in all downtown Silver Spring, MD, which they say is a “private space”.  I have taken pictures around the AFI Silver, the Discovery Center, the Metro, and the wall art many times with no problems.   Here’s an old story by Marc Fisher, the Washington Post, June 21, 2007, link

“Glad You Asked” of the Journal Times (what city?) has a column on the law and photographing of people in public places, here However, in this era of Facebook tagging, online reputation experts are becoming concerned.

On June 23, I wrote an article about a new law in Tennessee that would try to limit photography of persons in public (probably unconstitutional), but is seems as though this issue crops up a lot, particularly with photos of police. There were  a couple cases reported in Massachusetts reported in 2008, according to Pixiq (Oct 2008), here  (e.g. photography "without consent").. 

There was also a case in Maryland a couple years ago on I-95 (an exit or overpass) between Washington and Baltimore. I recall some kind of esoteric doctrine (in Maryland law, at least) about who gives consent, but I didn’t think it applied in a public place visible to the public.  Gizmodo has a story about this case by Wendy McElroy, here.   Part of the problem here was the video of the incident was published on YouTube subsequently.  Gizmodo conflates the First and Second Amendments with a story title, "Are cameras the new guns?"

There has also been some legal controversy over where private citizen’s “wiretapping” (by audio devices) overlaps photography.

Stay tuned on this one.  It’s a conundrum – that is, a mess.  Maybe Jeffrey Toobin on CNN could talk about this. 

Friday, July 01, 2011

Righthaven, not ready to crash and burn, throws its own lawyers under; Sherman Frederick's new column

Is Righthaven on the ropes?  Or is it like a baseball manager, removing lawyers like starting pitchers who get into trouble with too many high pitches (walls and gopher balls)?  It’s fun to blame the paeans a throw them “under the train” (scribd link).   This whole Righthaven saga might wind up the subject of a USA series (“Characters welcome”) like the new “Suits” yet – about lawyers.   Maybe it would make for good documentary film, at least POV on PBS.

Sherman Frederick of the Las Vegas Journal Review does have his own comments on this in a June 26, 2011 column (“I’m no rappin’ Barbie doll”), link here and I don’t dare reproduce it.  He says all of this stuff about standing is all technicalities. He does get into some interesting stuff when he talks about Fair Use as more relevant to informational stories than personal commentaries, and gets into the difference between editorials and commentaries.

But other news outlets often say about informational stories, that they shan’t be rewritten or “redistributed”.  But I’ve never heard of that point being litigated.

Yup, if I lived in Las Vegas, I’d probably take my own camera to news sites and write my own stories, even informational. But I try to do that here, in the DC area.

But on June 26, 2011 Steve Green, of the rival "competitor" Las Vegas Sun and “Vegasinc” offered a detailed commentary, “Righthaven hurts news industry, one ruling at a time”, link here

I guess the copyright trolls fight on the side of the Decepticons, as Dreamworks Pictures sees the universe.